Manufacturing Automation 101

Manufacturing automation uses robotics, software and machine algorithms to automate manual work. These systems can take over the repetitive tasks that humans have historically done, such as assembly line work or other physical processes, and can perform them faster and more accurately. This allows employees to focus on more demanding work and can also free up resources to focus on growth or innovation.

Manufacturers are embracing automation to increase productivity, streamline production, and reduce waste. It is a trend that will continue to shape the factory floor and change the nature of manual work for many years. Automation increases productivity for manufacturers by reducing the amount of man-hours spent on the production line. This enables workers to shift their efforts towards designing, operating, monitoring and adjusting automated machinery and other technology. It can also help companies keep track of inventory, WIP (work in progress) and operations costs.

Automation can be used in many industries, with the most obvious being construction products and automotive. Building product companies often use process automation to quickly reproduce parts and other building materials, ensuring they meet strict production standards for client satisfaction. This helps them increase the speed and quality of their output, allowing them to be more competitive in the market.

Other common uses include food processing, apparel, chemicals and oil/gas. Automation reduces the risk of human error and increases consistency, resulting in better quality products. It can also improve safety, as machines aren’t susceptible to erratic break patterns or fatigue.

Despite the positives, there are some downsides to automation. These may include limited flexibility, as machines don’t have the creativity or ingenuity of humans, and higher energy/fuel consumption. There is also the potential for high upfront costs for equipment and installation.

There are a few steps that should be taken before implementing any automation, starting with understanding the business benefits. It is important to communicate these to staff to ensure they are on board and can see how it will benefit them. Then, a process should be put in place to implement the software, train employees on it and monitor and adjust as necessary.

Another important step is determining how much automation is needed. This will depend on the industry and production line, but can include identifying high-risk areas where failure would have a significant impact. It is also important to set clear goals, such as a target percentage of the production line that needs to be automated.

There are three types of automation: fixed, programmable and flexible. Fixed automation is designed to perform one function only. For example, a fixed automated production line might consist of a series of dedicated workstations that each fulfill a particular purpose in the production cycle. This type of system is ideal for large volume, low-to-medium complexity production. Programmable automation is a more flexible option that can change production to match demand. This can be done by modifying existing programs, or creating new ones online. A flexible automated production line could be capable of producing multiple different items on a continuous basis, without the need for downtime for changeovers.

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